Surprise! Video Games Still Don't Make You Violent

Image: iStock

Researchers in Germany recently conducted a study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on long-term players of violent video games. They set out to prove their hypothesis that gamers have reduced empathy when compared to non-gamers because of, you know, the violent video games.

Guess what they found?

The gamers had the same neural response to emotionally provocative images as non-gamers. In other words, playing violent video games does not negatively impact on your empathy, according to this, and the vast majority of studies on the subject over the years.

Some studies have even shown playing event violent video games can decrease aggression in gamers, provided they don't have a pre-existing anti-social personality disorder.

The fact is, a link between violent media - such as violent movies and video games, and real-life aggression and violence, has been discussed and analysed since these types of media have existed. Some of this has taken the form of morning television hysteria, but this question has also been addressed by numerous scientific studies.

Previous studies have shown that people who play violent video games can be desensitised towards emotional stimuli (such as violence), and show decreased empathy, and increased aggression.

However, the overwhelming majority of these studies investigated only the short-term effects of playing violent video games, where participants played the games immediately before or even during the experiment. There have been very few studies that have examined the long-term effects of playing violent video games.

In this recent study, a team led by Dr Gregor Szycik of the Hannover Medical School investigated the long-term effects of playing violent video games.

"The research question arises first from the fact that the popularity and the quality of video games are increasing, and second, we were confronted in our clinical work with more and more patients with problematic and compulsive video game consumption," explains Szycik.

The participants in the study were all male, as playing violent video games and aggressive behavior are more prevalent in men, according to the researchers. All the gamers had played first person shooters, such as Call of Duty or Counterstrike, at least two hours a day for the previous four years - although the average gaming participant played for an average of four hours daily. The gamers were compared with control subjects who had no experience with violent video games and did not play video games regularly.

To avoid the short-term effects of playing violent video games, the gamers refrained from playing for a minimum of three hours before the experiment started, although the majority refrained for much longer than this. This geared the study towards finding the long-term effects of playing such games.

To evaluate their capacity for empathy and aggression, the participants answered psychological questionnaires. Then, while being scanned in an MRI machine, the participants were shown a series of images designed to provoke an emotional and empathetic response.

As the images appeared, they were asked to imagine how they would feel in the depicted situations. Using the MRI scanner, the researchers measured the activation of specific brain regions, to compare the neural response of gamers and non-gamers.

The psychological questionnaire revealed no differences in measures of aggression and empathy between gamers and non-gamers. This finding was backed up by the fMRI data, which demonstrated that both gamers and non-gamers had similar neural responses to the emotionally provocative images.

These results surprised the researchers, as they were contrary to their initial hypothesis, and suggest that any negative effects of violent video games on perception or behavior may be short-lived.

The team acknowledge that further research is required.

"We hope that the study will encourage other research groups to focus their attention on the possible long-term effects of video games on human behavior," says Szycik.

"This study used emotionally-provocative images. The next step for us will be to analyse data collected under more valid stimulation, such as using videos to provoke an emotional response."

[Frontiers, Further Sources]


Comments

    Wow I do not want to be part of that test group!

    Some studies have even shown playing event violent video games can decrease aggression in gamers, provided they don't have a pre-existing anti-social personality disorder.

    A study was need to point that out? This Penny Arcade comic summed it up best back then.

    https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/1999/04/14/

    Previous studies have shown that people who play violent video games can be desensitised towards emotional stimuli (such as violence), and show decreased empathy, and increased aggression.

    Often penned by Anderson who has been caught out so many times we need a prime number generator to keep up.

    The participants in the study were all male, as playing violent video games and aggressive behavior are more prevalent in men, according to the researchers.

    So it wasn't a fluke for me then? I once taught a gaming unit and there was a difference between the all male and all female groups.

    Wish I could say more though; don't work there anymore but as far as I can tell I can't talk about student outcomes ever.

    These results surprised the researchers, as they were contrary to their initial hypothesis, and suggest that any negative effects of violent video games on perception or behavior may be short-lived.

    I'm not gonna lie; when something is poorly designed in a game I get real mad.

    Like others I've always seen games as a good outlet for frustration. Why punch a wall when it is cheaper to just load up Doom and go mad with the chainsaw?

    Nobody and nothing is getting harmed nor hurt in the process so I think that a good thing. Deprive someone of a means to vent out their frustration and it does build up to more complicated problems (psychologically) down the track.

    News flash: gamers separate reality from fiction, media baffled.

    No but seriously, why is this even a thing anymore? I'd be more interested to see if the same concepts apply to internalising attitudes or cultural norms portrayed in games, and how it affects gamers' world views. Given how many people are blaming games for mysogyny and hatred, I'd be curious to see if it's a similar sort of thing.

    Bullshit, that hadouken I busted out on that guy that hassled me for change the other day I totally learned from Streetfighter.

    Look at the world... there can be 600 studies that prove_________ doesnt cause something negative... but as long as there is one bullshit theory, false opinion, sebsational journalism, alternative fact... you will never convince the loudest people on the soap box they are wrong, cause they wont admit they are. (Especially if they nnake mobey or gain fame from stabding on that soap box)

      * Damn keyboard making my Ns into Bs.

      This is why we still have anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, and other similar fuckwits.

      Oh, and climate change deniers. Who cares if 99% of science says one thing? Pick the 1% who agree with what you already believe, and you can feel justified that your evidence is 'scientific'.

      Fuck's sake.

        Only made worse since the explosion of facebook! Where all these idiots have a place to share their bigotry.

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